Marketers today are under more pressure than ever to deliver bottom-line results. This series sponsored by Autopilot explores how essential automation has become in that pursuit and the many ways it’s evolving to shape the customer journey from acquisition through to greater lifetime value. Check out the whole series here.


For many customers, it’s a mobile-first world. But that doesn’t mean they’re exclusively mobile, or use just one mobile device. How can marketing automation support a multichannel approach to ensure you remain relevant to your customer?

Right person, right place, right time

Marketing automation is about mapping through the touch points at every stage of the customer journey: engaging the right person, in the right place, at the right time. Once you understand the needs of your customer, the choices they make at each step of the decision-making process, and how to pull the right types of demographic and engagement data into your marketing toolkit, then multichannel is about the right contact: engaging your customer within the journey, in the context that makes sense for them.

While traditional 1:1 engagement focused primarily on email (marketing) and phone calls (sales), today companies use a multichannel approach to significantly increase audience engagement, extending the conversation to text messages, push notifications, or reinvigorating direct mail with offers tailored specifically for a customer’s interests.

Chew on this: Marketing in a multichannel, multi-device world

For SMBs, making multichannel communication as simple and non-invasive as sending an email, while collecting the necessary data, has been a longtime conundrum.

Now, visionary startups such as Munchery, a popular urban meal delivery service, are demonstrating how to leverage multichannel economically. By understanding customer identity, they’re able to connect with people on the right device, wherever they are in the world, and send relevant messages.

Once Munchery learns a customer prefers to order vegetarian three evenings a week via his iPhone, they can message him on his mobile with: “We have several excellent vegetarian options on tonight’s menu,” while simultaneously utilizing direct mail to deliver a glossy postcard with beautiful photos of his favorite meals.

However, companies face a number of headwinds in trying to build out a multi-channel communication strategy. First, having the ability to consistently message across channels, not just via email, has been technically challenging. Right channel, right time, right context means having a centralized view of all your contacts, being able to tie together your systems and data (APIs, dev time, etc.), then ensuring a way to define and automate their buying journey.

A second challenge: while email remains the best digital marketing channel for ROI, the trend over the last decade has been away from email, meaning it’s no longer the ideal way for a marketer to stand out from the noise. What is effective is augmenting the email message with a consistent message on other channels.

The third challenge concerns the rise of social media and mobile. Whereas people used to get their information sitting at desktops in a B2B or B2C environment, today consumers and professionals get information from LinkedIn or Facebook; they Tweet regularly on their phones. Marketers need to engage people where they are, through social and mobile.

A bird’s-eye view of customer activity

It’s not unusual for a consumer to commit different actions during their journey: they may have researched a product on your website from their laptop at work, then visited a retail location and compared prices on their phone, only to later leave a product in your online shopping cart while using their tablet at home. For many companies, this information is stored in three different repositories — and becomes fragmented across these different channels.

The first step for multichannel is being able to centralize and organize your customer record in a single location that incorporates actions, events, and behaviors across multiple locations. In doing so, you’re able to build out a richer customer profile that appends behaviors and events in different systems. You can then dynamically inject content that pulls from those channels into your messaging. You can also use them to trigger, limit or restrain communication with people at the right time.

Multichannel has also triggered a bonanza for B2B companies. For example, a growing number of businesses use text messaging to engage conference or webinar attendees prior to calling them. These mobile-based or text-based approaches are increasing other channel responses. A text might read, “Thanks for attending. We see you’re interested in building software online. Expect a call from one of our customer service reps shortly.” 

A five-step approach to best practices

To keep your company’s channels flowing with the right information to the right person at the right time in the right context:

  • Organize customer record and identity in a single location.
  • Build a cohesive journey that makes sense for that customer at that place and time.
  • Personalize the journey with targeted messaging and optimized design, e.g.: Joan views a certain pair of shoes online at a certain time, triggering a customer journey that says, “Joan is interested. Here’s where she’s from, and how often she’s visited the site. She prefers blue to red.” Joan receives a text message five minutes later saying something like, “Did you know this brand is now available at ten percent off?”
  • Factor multichannel into the journey: a text message, a push notification, an email, Facebook ad, a direct mailing. But don’t overdo: too aggressive equals unsubscribes.
  • Track results. A data-driven, adaptive approach helps you figure out timing and optimal number of touch points by testing your content as appropriate.

Changing channels necessitates a little fine-tuning to get it right. Once you do, your multichannel marketing approach will be right on target.

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